I love shopping for food at the markets. For me it’s an enjoyable social event, the engagement with vendors is part of the fun, jostling with others to inspect or maybe even try the produce and then when I queue up to buy I feel like a local. The whole process stirs the emotion and lingers through to the last memorable mouthful of whatever is the final culinary creation – not that I’ve been very creative really.
This is not unique to Paris. I felt the same about markets at home like Wellington’s Sunday fruit and vegetable market at Chaffers Park, the City Market in the Chaffers Dock building and the Ohoka farmers market.
The markets here have centuries of history and tradition behind them and that is partly what makes them so delightful.
There are numerous markets set up on city streets according to council-regulated schedules, and many streets operate in a bustling market like arrangement every day (except Mondays – most vendors in the markets and streets I’ve described are closed on Mondays). In the 17th we have several to choose from and just to confuse, there are 2 markets called Batignolles.
There is a Saturday-only organic market (Marché Bio Batignolles) on Boulevard des Batingolles. It’s good, and if you are into organics this is apparently the place to go. People come from all over Paris for the organic produce. We have been for a look but not being devout organic food disciples we haven’t made this a regular destination.
There is the covered Marché Batignolles which spans a whole block and has entrances on Rue des Moines and Rue Lemercier. This is our local market and is chock full of food vendors; there are 3 fishmongers, at least 2 fromageries, a Lebanese deli, fruit and veg, a wine merchant, and more. On Rue des Moines there are several other delicatessens, a chocolaterie, patisserie, cafes, and a tea salon. No surprise that this is our favourite area for food shopping.
A typical expedition for us will include a stop at the butchery in the market, Boucherie Pilote, or at Boucherie 44 over the road at 44 Rue des Moines. Both are extremely popular and will usually have a queue of people on a weekend morning. It’s worth queuing; there are delicious cooked terrines, the range of meat cuts is extensive; everything from beef tongue to whole rabbit with liver still attached, the butchers will trim, slice or cut your selected piece as you want, and mince meat (steak haché) is minced on request right in front of you. No horsemeat could slip into that.
Trips to the butcher shop have turned out to be the most fun. The butchers are friendly, even just a tad cheeky in a good natured way, as is typical of butchers I’d say. The staff at both shops know us now and I can see the wrinkle of a smile appear when I say what I want in my kiwi accented French. Once when I replied, in French, that no there was nothing else I needed (c’est tout merci) the butcher mimiced back in English “that’s all thanks” with a spot-on kiwi twang and a grin on his face.
Then there are the “permanent” street markets like Rue de Levis with all sorts of foodie treats available as well as flower sellers, cafes and restaurants. The fruit and vege vendors call out their wares “profitez, profitez, framboises, fraises, profitez”. Metro Villiers is closest for rue de Levis and also just nearby is one of the Le Notre epiceries (delicatessens)on Boulevard de Courcelles (#15) which sells gateaux to die for, boxes of ready to eat elegant appetisers, premium wines and much more. I once bought a chocolate gateau there for a special occasion and it tasted every bit as good as it looked.
Still in the 17th, just off Avenue de Ternes (Metro Ternes) there’s Rue Poncelet and adjacent Rue Bayen for another typical street market. It’s always busy; there are seafood and shellfish merchants, fruit and veg, cheeses, bread and pastries and cafes. It’s hard to walk past and resist the temptation to buy something, especially at the moment with whole platoons of fresh white and green asparagus stacked on display, and wheelbarrow loads of strawberries flaunting their luscious flesh at passers by. Never go that way when you are hungry.
As I walk the route through either Rue de Levis, or Rue Poncelet soaking up the bustling atmosphere and Parisian ambience I remind myself how lucky I am to be here.